By MAX FILBY
VAN BUREN — After its May bond issue was voted down, Van Buren School District is seeking input before deciding whether another levy should appear on the November ballot.
The district recently launched an online survey, asking residents to give their perspective on the aging part of the school, whether it needs renovation or demolition, and what should be replaced.
Residents can respond to the survey at vbschools.net or at yes4vbs.org through June 30.
“It’s important that we get as many voters as possible in the district to take this” survey, Superintendent Tim Myers said.
Myers and the Van Buren school board want to discuss the survey’s results and where to go from there at an open forum on July 8.
The effort to reach out to voters is the result of complaints that the district didn’t do a good enough job to explain the need for the May bond issue.
The $29.3 million levy went down with 853 votes, or 62 percent, voting against it, according to the Hancock County Board of Elections. The bond issue had 527 voters, or 38 percent, in favor.
“We just didn’t do a good enough job of getting information out to people,” Myers said. “Now we’re asking, ‘Do people have enough to make a decision?'”
After announcing the May bond issue in January, the district hosted a number of open houses and information sessions that “were not highly attended,” Myers said.
“There’s been a history of Van Buren residents not attending things like that,” Myers said. “If they’re not going to come in here, then we need to do better at reaching out to them.”
Depending on community input, Myers said it’s possible the same bond issue or a similar one could appear on the November ballot.The deadline for submissions to the Hancock County Board of Elections is Aug. 6.
“The board will be considering it, that’s why we’re doing all of this,” Myers said. “We’re just trying to throw everything out there right now.”
The 37-year, 6.9-mill package that voters turned down in May would have paid for building 37 new classrooms and a new gym at the middle school and high school.
The district is not eligible for state funding for the project because its property valuation is too high, considering its enrollment.
The new classrooms and gym would have replaced an existing portion of the school that was built in 1918, making it 96 years old.
That part of the building is so old that it regularly has water main leaks, Myers said. The building’s chimney and floors are also deteriorating.
“It wasn’t passed, but none of these things have gone away,” Myers said. “We need to figure out some way to handle them.”
If a proposal again fails to pass in November, the district could instead expand its parking lot onto two properties it recently purchased.
“As landlocked as we are, we could always use additional parking, too,” Myers said.